The Times West Virginian

November 9, 2011

Mixing it up

By Debra Minor Wilson
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — (Editor’s note: The “My Favorite Recipe” food for November is stuffings and dressings. Send your favorite homemade recipes to Debbie Wilson at

Don’t mess with the dressing.

Thanksgiving is all about tradition, especially the meal.

And you don’t fool around with tradition.

But, maybe this year, instead of the usual dressing, you might want to shake things up a bit. Be different.

Try a crab dressing.

Gabrielle Anderson likes to put her own stamp on her food. When she found a recipe for traditional dressing, she knew she had to mix it up a bit. Everybody does sausage or oyster dressing. But she wanted something unique.

“I thought about shrimp or some other kind of seafood,” she said.

“But nobody uses crab. I figured it would be a break from the usual,” she said.

“I put this in it and that in it, and changed it around so that it was mine.”

She took two boxes of sage dressing (yes — premade, boxed stuffing), and added red pepper, onions, celery, fresh parsley, some cream of celery soup, and other seasonings and spices.

“It’s basic simple, but with enough of a twist with a little bit of flavor,” she said.

“I like to think I brought a little bit of the South to the North with just enough red pepper to give it a little bit of a kick.”

She could call it “Gabrielle’s Fantastic Crab Dressing” or maybe “Traditional Sage with a Twist,” she said.

“Somebody who can’t cook can make this,” she said. “Just sautée your veggies in butter, mix in the dressing with cream of celery soup, add the crab and mix together, and put it in the oven.

“And ... BAM!” she said with a laugh.

“I normally only do things that are simple and easy to make. Most of the time, I find a recipe I like and use it as more of a guide how to cook it, not what to put in or do. I just flavor it until I have something that’s right.”

Don’t use the fake crab. It may be cheaper but sometimes you really do get what you pay for.

“Oh, no,” she said. “Use blue crab meat. That fake stuff doesn’t taste the same.”

Anderson worked in the food and beverage industry for 10 years.

“So I know food,” she said. She doesn’t watch too many TV food shows. She’d rather read or crochet.

“I would bake the stuffing and then refrigerate it, versus just premixing it,” she said. “You don’t want it to be too soggy or hard. If you make it and let it sit overnight, I think it would be harder.

“Anything that can be stuffed ... peppers, apples, meat ... that was my line of thinking to go with. I came up with a stuffing ball recipe but made it into a casserole.

“I actually had to write everything down for this recipe because I normally don’t use one.”

She learned to cook and bake from her grandmother, Carolyn Blakemore.

“I was only knee high. She brought me in to the whole cooking as food fest aspect. We moved away and lived in Florida for 14 years. Then I came back to the whole genre of what she does.

“If she says she has a pie competition coming up, I’ll say, ‘OK. What are you making?’ I take what she does and beat her out. I love it,” she said with a laugh.

“But that’s part of it, because that way I can continue on the traditions she started. There is a method to it. And fortunately she hasn’t told me to stay home yet,” she added.

“I know she’s doing this on purpose, to pass the baton, because I know at some point she’ll get to the point where she can’t do it. And I’m the only one who really knows what goes into her pie crusts. So at least I have that leg up on the competition.”

She likes to bake, but not so much for holidays right now.

“I leave it to everybody else. But I’m constantly cooking for my family. I made homemade shepherd’s pie Monday with my own crust and mashed potatoes. And I’m making homemade chicken pot pie tonight.

“I’ll make the crust and let it chill, do what I need for the filling and put it together. I have to have something quick, because my husband, Scott, works like a crazy man.”

And then there’s little Carlie Shianne, just a couple of weeks shy of 3.

“Now, she keeps me busy,” she said, scooping up her little girl and kissing her.

“I look at Carlie and see a lot of me in her,” Anderson said. “Her curiosity. She’s not quite big enough yet to let her help in the kitchen. I don’t want her to get close to the oven.

“But when she’s bigger and understands how, I’ll start giving her the foundation and background of cooking.”

The contest for November is stuffings and dressings. To be featured on the “My Favorite Recipe” page, contact Debbie Wilson at 304-367-2549 or

Email Debra Minor Wilson at